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PRINCE ADELEKE ADEDOYIN
NIGERIAN NATIONAL PRESS LTD. AND ANOR,
HIGH COURT, LAGOS
13TH JANUARY, 1964
SUIT NO. LD/553/62
ONYEAMA, Ag. C.J.
Moore Q.C. (with his Ebube), for the Plaintiff.
Shyngle, Q.C. (with him Atandare and Rhodes) for the Defendant.
TORT AND PERSONAL INJURY – Libel and Slander – Innuendo – Pleading – Absence of particulars of extrinsic facts – Good ground for objecting evidence thereof – R.S.C. Order 19 rule 6 (2).
TORT AND PERSONAL INJURY – Libel and Slander-Defences-Justification and fair comment-Proof.
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – Libel -Particulars of innuendo-Pleading.
ONYEAMA, Ag. C. J. of Lagos: The plaintiff claims £100,000 damages for libel. The publication complained of was contained on page 16 of the “Nigerian Morning Post” newspaper of Monday the 24th September, 1962. The first defendants were the publishers of the newspaper and the second defendant was its editor.
The article complained of was as follows:
“Dragnet for two as Adedoyin reported missing WANTED: ENAHORO ADEBANJO
In Lagos yesterday, the police declared two top Action Group members as “wanted men.”
The men are Chief Anthony Enahoro, Opposition Spokesman on foreign affairs and Mr. Ayo Adebanjo, an lbadan lawyer, and one-time president of the U.K. branch of the party.
Also yesterday, it was reported that the Speaker of the suspended Western House of Assembly, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, had been missing for days.
Two days ago, police were reported to have searched Prince Adedoyin’s residence in Ibadan and it was reported that nothing incriminating was found.
Usually reliable sources said in Lagos yesterday that the imposition of a house arrest on Chief Awolowo is not unconnected with the present investigations which have led to seizure of arms and ammunitions in several parts of the country.”
(See Exhibit 1)
The plaintiff further complains that on the day this offending article was published in the newspaper the defendants displayed posters all over the country bearing the words: “SPEAKER ADEDOYIN MISSING.” (See Exhibit 2)
Pleadings were directed and filed. The Statement of Claim set out the portion of page 16 of the “Nigerian Morning Post” of the 24th September, 1962, complained of. It also set out the words on the poster of that day.
Paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim reads:
“By the said words the defendants meant and were understood to mean that the plaintiff has gone into hiding as he is involved in the illegal importation of arms and ammunition into the country.
The amended Statement of Defence admitted the publications while denying that “they meant or were understood to mean what is alleged in paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim.”
The defendants further pleaded:
“4. In so far as the words consist of statements of fact the said words are in their natural and ordinary meaning, and without the said alleged meanings, true in substance and in fact; and in so far as the said words consist of expressions of opinion they are fair comment made in good faith and without malice upon the said facts which are a matter of public interest.
“12. The defendants plead sections 7 and 8 of the Defamation Act 1961.”
On the 15th November, 1963, the defendants’ solicitors filed notice of a motion for an order “pursuant to Order 19 Rule 6 (2) of the Rules of the Supreme Court (Annual Practice) and Order 32 Rule 16 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules” that the plaintiff do deliver to the defendants within seven days “full particulars in writing of the following matters in the Statement of Claim:
Under paragraph 4: Particulars of facts and matters on which the plaintiff relies in support of the innuendo.
And that in default of delivery of such particulars the plaintiff be precluded from giving evidence in support of the innuendo at the trial of this action, and that the defendants have three days after delivery of the said particulars to deliver their further defence (if necessary) and that the costs of and incidental to this application, be the defendants’ costs in any event.”
The affidavit in support of the application averred, in paragraph 2, that the solicitors on the 22nd October, 1963, ‘served on the plaintiff’s solicitors an application in writing for further and better particulars of the Statement of Claim, with particular reference to paragraph 4 of the said Statement of Claim to be given within seven (7) days.
Paragraph 3 of the affidavit sets out that
“up till the time of my making this affidavit the plaintiff’s solicitors have not supplied the said particulars.”
The motion came up before LAMBO, J. on the 25th November, 1963, and “upon an application made at a later stage of the proceeding by Egerton Shyngle Esquire Q.C., to withdraw the application after due considerations;” it was ordered “that leave to withdraw this Application be granted AND IS HEREBY struck out with £2.2.0d. costs in favour of the Plaintiff/Respondent against the Defendants/Appellants.”
I understand the Order to be one of striking out the application for particulars and not the leave to withdraw.
The application was not renewed before me.
During the hearing, a good deal of evidence about the conditions prevailing in Western Nigeria at the time of the publications was given by the plaintiff and his witnesses without any objection from the defence. Some of this evidence was of extrinsic facts which would support the extended meaning of the publications contended for in the innuendo pleaded. The parties were represented at the hearing by leading counsel, and to my mind, if no objection is taken to evidence when it is offered, then unless the evidence is inadmissible by some express enactment, it would be too late for objections to it to be taken at the conclusion of the case in the address of counsel.
The plaintiff did not give particulars of any extrinsic facts supporting the innuendo meaning of the publication as required by R.S.C., Ord. 19, r. 6 (2). The position appears to be that “there will have to be three paragraphs in a statement of claim where previously two have served. In the first paragraph the defamatory words will be set out as hitherto. It may be that they will speak for themselves. If not, a second paragraph will set out those innuendoes or indirect meanings that go beyond the literal meaning of the words but which the pleader claims to be inherent in them. Thirdly,. if the pleader has the necessary material, he can plead a secondary meaning of legal innuendo supported by particulars under R.S.C., Ord. 19, r. 6 (2) … The essential distinction between the second and third paragraph will lie in the fact that particulars under the rule must be appended to the third. That is, so to speak, the hall-mark of the legal innuendo.” per LORD DEVLIN in Lewis v. Daily Telegraph Ltd. (1963) 2 All E.R. 151, 171.
Although particulars were not given in the case under consideration, evidence was given, without objection, of the circumstances surrounding the publications which, to my mind, gave to those publications the extended meaning contended for in paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim. The absence of particulars was a good ground for objecting to the evidence when it was offered, but is no reason for disregarding the evidence after it had been let in. If I am right in this view, then there was evidence in support of the innuendo meaning alleged.
The publication in the “Nigerian Morning Post” in its ordinary sense was capable of a defamatory meaning. It clearly linked the plaintiff, who was said to be missing, with two men who were said to be wanted by the police. The meaning of this was that the plaintiff was involved in or was suspected of some business which was engaging the attention of the police and on account of which he had gone into hiding.
I find that the publications in their ordinary meaning and in the innuendo meaning pleaded were libellous of the plaintiff.
The defences raised were justification and fair comment. What have to be justified are that the plaintiff went into hiding from the police and that he was involved in the illegal importation of arms and ammunition, for these constituted the pith and marrow of the libel. It is not sufficient to prove that the plaintiff was not present when his houses were searched in Ibadan and at Shagamu. For the plea of fair comment to prevail it has to be shown that the essential facts are true.
I find that the defendants failed to justify the publications and that the essential facts on which the so-called comments of the defendants were based were not proved to be true.
The plaintiff must succeed on his claim.
The amount of damages claimed is fantastic. The plaintiff has not lost any income on account of the publications. He is back at his job of Speaker of the Western House of Assembly, showing that his reputation has not been damaged in the eyes of the Members of that House.
Regarding the damage to his reputation generally it is interesting to hear what his own witness Latunde Vincent ((st PW) said were his reactions to the publication.
The witness said:
“When I saw the placard I had no doubt, knowing the plaintiff as I did, that he was just the type of man to be involved in this arms business; I thought the article was telling the truth.”
This witness, at least, did not rate the plaintiff’s character very highly. Everything considered, 1 think honour will be satisfied with an award of £250 as damages.
There will therefore be judgment for the plaintiff against the defendants for £250 and costs assessed at £73.10.0d.